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Malmö Lunch: Idli, vadai and dosa at The South Indian

It can't have been hard to land a job in Sweden for Suresh Kumar, the chef at Malmö's newly-opened The South Indian, as no trained chef in the Nordic country can whip up batter for Indian dosa pancakes the way he can.

Malmö Lunch: Idli, vadai and dosa at The South Indian
The restaurant specialises in masala dosa, here served with sambar soup and coconut chutney. Photo: Richard Orange
The South Indian, which opened in August on Södra Förstadsgatan, just off Malmö's Möllevången Square, does dosas as they should be done: crispy, sour and very slightly greasy, folded in a great triangular parcel over a comforting blob of mild potato masala curry. 
 
Then there's the crispy vadai (deep fried savoury doughnuts), spongy idli rice cakes, and soft uttapam pancakes, all served with a little bowls of sambar lentil soup and coconut chutney.  
 
“We make it as we make it in India,” says Prabha Rajagopalan, the restaurant's manager. “You can only have authentic Indian food when you have proper chefs.”  
 
Kumar makes his dosa batter himself, mixing ground rice and lentils into a batter, which is then left to ferment in a warm place. 
 
“The climate does make a difference,” Prabha admits. “But what we can do is set up a place where you have more warmth.” 
 
 
Prabha Rajagopalan worked in Chennai as a software developer and has recently completed a business degree. Photo: Richard Orange
 
Prabha, from Chennai in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, came to the restaurant as a customer along with her husband, shortly after it opened in August.
 
“We were literally craving authentic Indian Food,” she explained, saying her husband had been suffering from a severe deprivation of dosa, idli and vadai, in the three years they had spent in Malmö since 2015.
 
The city's existing Indian restaurants, she complained, did not serve food she found recognizable.
 
Shortly after coming as a customer, she was hired by The South Indian's founder Kannadasan Pandian. 
 
Kannadasan, who came to Denmark in 2008 to work as a test engineer Nokia, launched the first branch of The South Indian in Copenhagen in 2014, growing it into a successful chain with seven branches spread out across six towns and cities in Denmark. 
 
Prabha says that while the restaurant does draw Indian IT workers living in Malmö like her husband (who works as IT manager for the dairy cooperative Skånemejerier) she's keen to introduce the flavours of Tamil cuisine to the locals. 
 
“We wanted to create the Indian flavour and share it for people here, so it's not just for Indians, it's for everybody.” 
 
She is a charming hostess, spending time explaining the food, which she says is best eaten by hand. 
 
“We believe that when you eat with your hands, you get more taste… and it's a God-given spoon,” she says.
 
Cutlery is provided, however. 
 
 
The restaurant's dosas are the big draw, with an all-you-can eat dosa offer, paper dosas, which are extremely thin and crispy, and a choice of different fillings. 
 
Idle rice cakes (white) and vadai (brown) nect to a bowl of sambar soup. Photo: Richard Orange
 
The restaurant also offers other classics of Tamil cuisine, such as chettinad chicken, and karaikudi fish masala, standard Indian restaurant dishes such as biryani, and Indian bar food such as samosa, pakora, papadum and chicken lollipops. 
 
The restaurant's interior has a sharp minimalist design with tasteful metal heads of the Hindu elephant god Ganesh, and a small shrine in one corner the only reference to India.
 
Name: South Indian
 
Address: Södra Förstadsgatan 84A, Malmö
 
 
This feature is part of The Local's Malmö Lunch series, exploring the city's international street cuisine. Where should our reporter Richard Orange eat next? Give us your suggestions in the comments below!

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DISCOVER SWEDEN

The three tasty treats that make spring in Sweden a forager’s dream

Although parts of Sweden are still under snow at this time of year, spring is in full swing here in Skåne in the south of Sweden. Here are The Local's top tips for what you can forage in the great outdoors this season.

The three tasty treats that make spring in Sweden a forager's dream

You might already have your go-to svampställe where you forage mushrooms in autumn, but mushrooms aren’t the only thing you can forage in Sweden. The season for fruits and berries hasn’t quite started yet, but there is a wide range of produce on offer if you know where to look.

Obviously, all of these plants grow in the wild, meaning it’s a good idea to wash them thoroughly before you use them. You should also be respectful of nature and of other would-be foragers when you’re out foraging, and make sure not to take more than your fair share to ensure there’s enough for everyone.

As with all foraged foods, only pick and eat what you know. The plants in this guide do not look similar to any poisonous plants, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry – or ask someone who knows for help.

Additionally, avoid foraging plants close to the roadside or in other areas which could be more polluted. If you haven’t tried any of these plants before, start in small doses to make sure you don’t react negatively to them.

Wild garlic plants in a park in Alnarpsparken, Skåne. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

Wild garlic

These pungent green leaves are just starting to pop up in shady wooded areas, and may even hang around as late as June in some areas. Wild garlic or ramsons, known as ramslök in Swedish, smell strongly of garlic and have wide, flat, pointed leaves which grow low to the ground.

The whole plant is edible: leaves, flowers and the bulbs underground – although try not to harvest too many bulbs or the plants won’t grow back next year.

The leaves have a very strong garlic taste which gets weaker once cooked. Common recipes for wild garlic include pesto and herb butter or herbed oil, but it can generally be used instead of traditional garlic in most recipes. If you’re cooking wild garlic, add it to the dish at the last possible moment so it still retains some flavour.

You can also preserve the flower buds and seed capsules as wild garlic capers, known as ramslökskapris in Swedish, which will then keep for up to a year.

Stinging nettles. Wear gloves when harvesting these to protect yourself from their needles. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

Stinging nettles

Brännässlor or stinging nettles need to be cooked before eating to remove their sting, although blanching them for a couple of seconds in boiling water should do the trick. For the same reason, make sure you wear good gardening gloves when you pick them so you don’t get stung.

Nettles often grow in the same conditions as wild garlic – shady woodlands, and are often regarded as weeds.

The younger leaves are best – they can get stringy and tough as they get older.

A very traditional use for brännässlor in Sweden is nässelsoppa, a bright green soup made from blanched nettles, often topped with a boiled or poached egg.

Some Swedes may also remember eating stuvade nässlor with salmon around Easter, where the nettles are cooked with cream, butter and milk. If you can’t get hold of nettles, they can be replaced with spinach for a similar result.

You can also dry nettles and use them to make tea, or use blanched nettles to make nettle pesto.

Kirskål or ground elder, another popular foraged green for this time of year.
Photo: Jessica Gow/TT

Ground elder

Ground elder is known as kirskål in Swedish, and can be used much in the same way as spinach. It also grows in shady areas, and is an invasive species, meaning that you shouldn’t be too worried about foraging too much of it (you might even find some in your garden!).

It is quite common in parks and old gardens, but can also be found in wooded areas. The stems and older leaves can be bitter, so try to focus on foraging the tender, younger leaves.

Ground elder has been cultivated in Sweden since at least 500BC, and has been historically used as a medicinal herb and as a vegetable. This is one of the reasons it can be found in old gardens near Swedish castles or country homes, as it was grown for use in cooking.

Kirskål is available from March to September, although it is best eaten earlier in the season.

As mentioned, ground elder can replace spinach in many recipes – you could also use it for pesto, in a quiche or salad, or to make ground elder soup.

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